Free-standing nickel nanowires supported by a nickel base were electrochemically fabricated on nanoporous alumina templates. A novel technique based on zincating was used for the activation of the pore bottoms of aluminum anodic oxide (AAO) that enabled the direct electrodeposition in the pores. For SERS applications, gold was electrodeposited on free-standing nickel nanowires in a conventional neutral cyanide bath. Under optimized conditions the SERS signal intensity of Rhodamine 6G molecules adsorbed on the nanowires was amplified to the order of 5 x 10(6). The results demonstrate the potential of this easy technique for reproducible SERS substrate preparation and activity. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.